Water is the most essential element of life and it is also one of the nature’s gifts facing high exploitation by mankind. As the urban circles widen, and as the concrete structures raise, there are always dangers for flora, fauna and waterbodies. Who cares for a river when one can get a beautiful house on it? Encroachments have carried out very severe damages to waterbodies, especially to the rivers and lakes of Chennai.
It is important to understand geographical location of waterbodies, their natural ability to support life on earth, man’s intervention and damage, and the current state of such waterbodies now. In this order, we can understand and get to know about our own rivers, lakes and reservoirs. Only then, we can feel a responsibility to protect them.
Chennai is one of the fastest growing cities of India and it is already a star city of the country with ample opportunities in the field of trade, education, health, tourism etc. It is also one of the densely populated city with millions flocking in and out everyday. Where there is urbanization and rapid development, there will always be at least a small damage to environment and ecosystem. Yes, let us look on further to see how waterbodies of Chennai faced a threat, and how they threatened back with 2015 floods.
Rivers Vs Lakes
Majority of the earth’s surface is covered by water. Ocean is the largest waterbody followed by seas, rivers, streams, lakes and ponds. Ocean and sea water have high amount if salt content and hence they are unsuitable for human consumption. The next option is river which obtains water from rainfall. Most of the rivers originate from higher altitudes and depending upon the rainfall, they flow with high force downstream. Rivers empty their water into sea or another river. In a few cases, rivers can also feed water to lakes.
Lakes are smaller when compared to river and they are still. Unlike river, they stagnate at one place surrounded by land areas on all sides with one side open, to get water from any river. Lakes can be formed by nature or they can also be man-made. Mostly, lakes serve to fulfil the drinking water needs of people living around them.
Rivers and lakes of Chennai
Man made structures such as dams and lakes are required for satisfying the drinking water needs of people, especially in urban areas. Chennai has a few fresh waterbodies, most of them originating from the Thiruvallur district.
River Cooum originates from the village Cooum in Thiruvallur district. The river travels a distance of more than 60 km, to drain into the Bay of Bengal at Chennai. The upper parts of the river flowing into the rural villages of Thiruvallur district is used for irrigation and general usage. But the lower part which flows into Chennai is highly polluted due to the dumping of waste, encroachments along the river banks etc. The 2006 tsunami washed the river off its pollutants but the river went back to its form sooner, due to human negligence.
Two centuries back the river Cooum was used for boating and its fresh water was a delight. But now, not even a fish could survive in it. Though it is a sad sight to see, the city is still taking efforts to clean the river and bring it back to its original form.
Adyar is one of the busy commercial and residential areas of Chennai. The place gets its name from the river Adyar, which originates from a small tank near Sriperumbuthur. As the river flows, it collects surplus water from the Chembarambakkam lake and flows with more volume. It finally drains into the Bay of Bengal.
Even throughout the years of pollution and encroachments, the river continues to be in usage for boating and fishing. The Adyar estuary and other points form a base for thriving flora and fauna, especially a few species of migratory birds.
The lake of Chembarambakkam is a rain fed water reservoir with a volume of around 3600 million cubic ft. It is one of the main drinking water sources for the people of Chennai.
Puzhal lake, which is also known as the red hills lake, also falls under the Thiruvallur district. It is also one of the main reservoirs supplying drinking water to Chennai. This lake is a man made structure built during the British era, 1876. A measuring structure called Jones tower was erected a few years later. The lake has a capacity of 3300 million cubic ft. It recorded its high volume till date during the 2015 floods.
There are many other small water bodies, running as veins, throughout the city. Though developments are essential for life, proper measures must be taken to preserve and support nature as well.